Talk about a blog topic that I can milk forever! Needless to say, I made lots of mistakes when I started my freelance writing business 25 years ago – but to my credit – I made most of them only once. I learned from my own mistakes and those of my fellow freelancers. Whenever possible, I shared tales of woe, as well as triumphs, with other writers. And in that spirit, I pass along these insights of the mistakes you should avoid on your journey to success.
Ridiculously Low Prices – People will always tell you if your prices are too high, but they seldom let you know they are too low. The problem with low prices is potential clients won’t take you seriously or will assume your skills match your rates. Or worse, you will get work but not be able to survive on the money you make. For these reasons, you have to offer competitive market rates. Do a Google search or check out the Writer’s Market guide at your local library for fee ranges.
Being Too Passive – Once you land a client, you can’t simply wait around for them to assign work to you. It took me almost five years to figure this out. You have to be proactive. Take the initiative, search editorial calendars and find article placement opportunities relevant to your client’s business. You will be amazed how often your client gives you the greenlight on a writing idea you pitched to them.
Not Listening to Clients – Early on, I was determined to write customer testimonial stories in the form of feature magazine articles for my clients. That’s all I wanted to do. But my clients kept asking me to write other things like press releases and white papers. I turned down a lot of work and probably lost some big contracts because I was paying more attention to what I wanted than what they wanted. Funny thing is, I had the ability to do those other projects. I just thought writing articles was my thing. But once I wised up and expanded my service offerings, my revenues shot up fast. Listen to what your clients want (within reason, obviously). If you can’t provide it, team with someone who can.
Sporadic Business Development – Although I started off prospecting every week, I became complacent two or three years into my business. I felt I had as much work as I could handle and stopped looking for new clients. Big mistake. That left my pipeline empty when I lost a client. Remember that bringing in new clients takes time, and you MUST prospect all the time to keep new business flowing in. And keep in mind you will likely lose some clients every year.
This is a topic I will return to in future blogs.